In Transition to Micro-LED, Apple Is Attempting to Reduce Its Reliance on Samsung for Displays

Lauly Li, reporting for Nikkei Asia:

Apple is getting involved in the mass production of next-generation displays to lessen its reliance on rival Samsung and increase its own control over the supply of a key component, Nikkei Asia has learned. Taking a hands-on approach to production is a stark contrast to the iPhone maker’s usual approach of providing display makers with screen specifications and leaving the actual production to them. [...]

Displays are one of the most expensive components in all of Apple’s devices. Since the American company first introduced OLED displays on its iPhone in 2017, its reliance on Samsung Display for the screens has only grown. To reduce that dependence and gain price-bargaining power, Apple tried to bring in other suppliers, namely LG Display and China’s display champion BOE Technology, but they lag the South Korean leader in terms of technology and quality stability, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

“Apple has spent at least $1 billion on the R&D and samples for micro-LED technologies in the past nearly 10 years,” said one of the people who has been directly involved in the project for years. “It wants to secure more control over the next-gen display technologies for its future products.”

Apple’s relationship with Samsung is one of the most interesting in all of tech. On the consumer side, Samsung has been Apple’s only serious rival for high-end phones for almost the entirety of the smartphone era. But for certain chips and especially displays, Samsung has been one of Apple’s most essential suppliers. So I think it’s quite obvious why Apple would try to take display development into its own hands. Imagine if Apple had a display technology lead analogous to its performance-per-watt chip technology lead.

From the Cook Doctrine: “We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make, and participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.”

(I’ve also long wondered how much effort Apple is putting into developing its own camera sensors.)

Monday, 22 May 2023